The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued an official recommendation, urging US citizens not to travel for Thanksgiving. The recommendation comes as part of the CDC’s updated guidelines for celebrating Thanksgiving and the holidays safely.
Over a quarter of a million have died in the US because of Covid-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to data from the John Hopkins University. Over 11 million have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the country and new daily records for hospitalization keep rising.
“CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period,” Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager for the CDC, told reporters in a conference call.
“Right now, especially as we are seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another, leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time.”
“The reason that we made the update is that the fact that over the week we’ve seen over a million new cases in the country,” Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz, the CDC’s lead for Community Intervention and Critical Population Task Force, said during the briefing.
Walke highlighted how multiple generations usually gather at one location to celebrate the holidays, increasing the risk of spreading the virus to the older and more vulnerable. It is also common for at least one person at such a gathering to have diabetes or kidney disease, increasing the risk of hospitalization as a result of contracting Covid-19. Around 40% of cases are symptomless, meaning seemingly healthy individuals could easily be transmitting the virus to those more vulnerable.
“What is at stake is the increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then being hospitalized and dying around the holidays,” Walke said.
“One of our concerns is people over the holiday season will get together and they may actually be bringing infection with them to that small gathering and not even know it,” he continued.
“We received lots of questions from the American people about college students or people that were coming home for the holidays that are family members or are a household member, so further clarifying that the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household,” Sauber-Schatz said.
“People who have not been living in your household for the 14 days before you are celebrating should not be considered members of your household and so you should take those extra precautions, even wearing masks within your own home.”
The CDC also recommends asking college students or others who are not always living at home to quarantine as much as they possibly can for two weeks before they arrive at the shared household. Per the CDC, it is also best to hold these gatherings outside as much as possible, as well wearing masks and placing chairs and other furniture a safer distance away from each other.
Those who must travel should wear masks throughout their journey, keep as much distance as possible from others and wash or sanitize their hands frequently, the CDC said.
“You can get COVID-19 during your travels. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can still spread COVID-19 to others. You and your travel companions (including children) may spread COVID-19 to other people including your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus,” the CDC says in the updated guidelines.
“Don’t travel if you are sick or if you have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. Don’t travel with someone who is sick.”
Walke and the CDC explained why travel was so risky during these times and why it is best to avoid it as much as possible. Travel hubs bring people together en masse from a wide variety of different places and situations, while the lines that also form while waiting for transport means that it is incredibly difficult to maintain a safe distance from others.
Air circulation on public transport like buses or trains is often poor and in these unprecedented times, they have become a hotbed for the spreading of Covid-19. It is impossible to know the attitude of others towards the current situation and if they will take similar precautions.
Walke said he is not visiting his own family. “I haven’t seen my parents since January. I’m staying home and that’s been difficult as I have older parents who would like to see me and who would like to see my children as well,” he said.
“It’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months now, and people are tired. And we understand that and people want to see their relatives and their friends in the way they’ve always done it. But this year, particularly, we’re asking people to be as safe as possible and limit their travel.”